Originally created 08/09/99

Home Front: Music lover runs radio station

Cloistered in an 11-by-15-foot sound studio on Augusta State University's campus, Alan Cooke stops mid-sentence when his digital watch goes off. He checks his notes, selects a compact disc and gets ready to hit the airwaves.

Mr. Cooke, 57, is the voice of Augusta public radio station WACG's (90.7 FM) midday classical music show Soundscapes, which broadcasts from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. weekdays.

"This is WAGC Augusta," Mr. Cooke said in his even keel radio timbre. "We have some light clouds in Augusta at this time. temperature is 75 degrees; relative humidity is 85 percent; wind from the east is 3 mph. Soundscapes is next, music for the midday. We're Peach State Public Radio. I'm Alan Cooke, glad to have you with me this morning."

But he's not just a radio-friendly voice spinning records and giving weather reports. He's the brains behind the operation, serving as the station's general manager.

To fill Soundscapes' two-hour time slot, he selects some material ahead of time, but likes to keep options open and choose pieces while he's on the air.

"With more and more talk on the radio, I try to fill every hour with as much music as possible," he said.

A self-described music lover, Mr. Cooke is also a performer and an active participant in Augusta's arts community.

To honor his contributions to Augusta's arts scene, Mr. Cooke recently received the Greater Augusta Arts Council's Media Award for 1999.

Carolyn Dolen, business manager for the Augusta Choral Society, nominated him for the award.

"I nominated him because of the excellent job he does giving coverage to all arts groups, whether it's a small ensemble or the opera or symphony," she said. "No matter how large or small a group is, he's willing to get them on the air and give plugs."

Mr. Cooke sees the award as affirmation of his work.

"It was very satisfying," he said. "Over the last 10 years or so, I've been recording a lot of local concerts. That has taken me out of the studio to be out with people. Recording these concerts gets me in these recital halls with a lot of people who also listen to us. I got to meet listeners and to form personal relationships.

"It's given me another dimension to my work. It has provided me with a human touch that has really enriched my work here."

Mr. Cooke's recordings are important as archive material for performance groups, Ms. Dolen said. To obtain grants, an organization often must have records or proof that its members performed concerts.

Mr. Cooke will record concerts upon request.

"He never lets anybody pay him for his time," Ms. Dolen said.

Mr. Cooke has been with WACG since October 1979, when he migrated back to Augusta to assume duties as the station's operations manager.

"The station was licensed to the college, and I was responsible for keeping the place on the air and providing programming, which was all classical music in those years," Mr. Cooke said. "Then when we joined Peach State Public Radio in 1987, we transferred the license to them and my employment. My title changed to station manager."

Mr. Cooke didn't start out in radio. He majored in psychology at the University of Georgia and studied music at Augusta College -- now Augusta State University -- and the Cincinnati Conservatory of Music.

A composer, he left graduate school in Cincinnati to pursue jingle writing.

"I was vice president and production manager for a company called Radio Theater Group, which did commercial music, soundtracks for industrial films and children's theater of all kinds. That company is still in existence. It's metamorphosed over into mostly music for daytime drama," he said.

Mr. Cooke played in bands all through high school and college. Once or twice a month he plays in a guitar-piano duo called Stardust at Augusta Country Club's lounge.

"In the process of doing demo (demonstration) tapes for bands that I was in, I became interested in the engineering of records and learned that over the years," he said. "I did a lot of studio recording and engineering. That led right into the jingle business, because we did a lot of our own recording, too."

The jingle business led him to radio.

"I worked at this station (WAGC) for a couple of years when I was a student and never forgot it when I moved away and worked up North," he said. "I made a personal promise that I would stay here for two years and try and get it stabilized. But I never lost interest in it. It's just as interesting today as the day I got here."

Kent Kimes covers arts and entertainment for The Augusta Chronicle. He can be reached at (706) 823-3626 or feature@augustachronicle.com.


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